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Viking Hermod - La Voulte english summary

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publié le 25 février 2020

The VIKING HERMOD passenger boat cruises the Rhône between Mâcon and Avignon. Starting in Lyon, it sailed down the river on 6 June 2015 when it was caught in a violent storm along with heavy rain greatly reducing visibility.
Having already crossed the Beauchastel lock, the boat could no longer stop and had to continue on its route.
It sailed up to the La Voulte-sur-Rhône bridge, located at PK 128.6, to cross the downstream boats pass. It was in these conditions that it was pushed onto the bridge pier, which is to the left of its path, by the strong wind of the storm, without being able to control its position, neither by sight, nor by radar. When the captain was finally able to see the bridge coming up, the boat could no longer avoid the collision and, at around 22.30, hit the bridge pier with the superstructures located port side.

The investigations carried out make it possible to establish that the direct cause of the accident is the poor approach of the Voulte-sur-Rhône SNCF bridge by the VIKING HERMOD passenger boat, which came in too much to the left of the downstream boat pass. This situation is directly linked to the storm that was raging at the time of the manoeuvre. The heavy rains completely eliminated visibility and saturated the radar image with echoes. Therefore, there was no way to detect markers marking the bridge piers. At the same time, the strong wind pushed the boat against the deck pile to the left of the passing boats.
When the captain saw the bridge pier at the last moment on the front of the boat, they could not completely avoid it, especially since the manoeuvring capacity of the boat was reduced by the damage to two of the four rear thrusters.

Three factors contributed to this accident :

  • the lack of radar detection of the beacons positioned upstream of the bridge piers ;
  • the manoeuvrability of the VIKING HERMOD, which was restricted by the failure of two of the four rear azimuth thrusters to propel and manoeuvre the boat ;
  • the captain’s workload, whose vigilance and his decision-making abilities had been depleted due to fatigue, which is itself related to the high number of working hours resulting from the grounding of the VIKING HERMOD passenger boat in Mâcon and subsequent repairs.

In light of these considerations, the BEA-TT makes a recommendation to the Viking River Cruises Company regarding the need to report to the authorities, in accordance with police rules, any damage that may hinder the manoeuvrability of the boats or the safety of navigation.
Beyond this formal recommendation, the BEA-TT draws the attention of Viking River Cruises to the need to encourage crews to respect maximum working hour limits provided by the regulations and invites the waterway manager to study the installation of radar reflectors.